Saturday, May 30, 2015

Gujarat bureaucrat Aloria, "instrumental" in seeking inquiry against Ford Foundation, made state chief secretary

Pandian with Aloria
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government on Saturday appointed GR Aloria, a 1981 batch IAS bureaucrat, as new state secretary. The posting comes weeks after Gujarat home department under him wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, seeking inquiry into the American philanthropic organization Ford Foundation’s grants to NGOs run by human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, fighting tens of 2002 communal riots cases, even as highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complicity.
Aloria has been holding charge of the state home department along with urban development department. Previously, he was with the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, the state agency implementing the Narmada project. He has worked as municipal commissioner in several Gujarat cities.
Close to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, a known Modi protégé, Aloria as head of the state home department, his colleagues recall, was also “instrumental” helping draft the controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (GCTOC) Bill, currently pending Presidential accent.
A stricter avatar a similar Bill, rejected by the previous Gujarat governor thrice, GCTOC’s contentious provisions are admissibility of evidence collected through telephonic interception and confession before police officer as evidence in court, and time limit of six months to file charge sheet. Already, GCTOC has under sharp criticism from several top civil rights organizations, including Amnesty International (click HERE to read), apart from the Opposition Congress.
Other recent “contributions” of Aloria’s tenure in home department, say bureaucrats, include triggering reinstatement of some of the key Gujarat cops, whose name appeared in Gujarat’s highly debated fake encounter cases. These include PP Pandey, posted as additional director-general, law and order; Geetha Johri, who was ranked director general of police; and Vipul Agrawal, posted as managing director, Gujarat Medical Services Corporation Limited, a state government undertaking.
As predicted by Counterview in January 2015 (click HERE to read), D Jagatheesa Pandian, who is senior batchmate of Aloria, failed to get the much-expected extension. The reasons include, say bureaucrats, his alleged failure to keep political masters, particularly state energy minister Saurabh Patel, de facto No 2 in Gujarat Cabinet, happy. Criticisms kept piling up against him for “misguiding” the political bosses about premier state sector undertaking Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation’s (GSPC’s), ability to continue with oil-and-gas explorations.
Pandian served as head of the GSPC for a decade before he was posted as state energy secretary in Sachivalaya in 2009, and later as state industries secretary. Made Gujarat chief secretary on November 1, 2014, he came under heavy internal criticism for creating “hype” around a huge 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in explorations by GSPC in the Krishna Godavari (KG) Basin, off Andhra Pradesh coast.
While Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, made a big show of 20 tcf gas in 2005 declaring how GSPC had turned into the biggest oil-and-gas-exploration company of India under him, bureaucrats say, the fault wasn’t entirely Pandian’s. Modi himself “decided” on the 20 tcf figure in an internal meeting, even as then state energy secretary Balwant Singh, backed by Pandian, kept saying this wasn’t so.
The actual gas found in KG Basin, it was revealed, was just about 2 tcf, of which just one-third was recoverable. Worse, under Pandian’s stewardship, and on Modi’s insistence, GSPC went “multinational”, kickstarting oil-and-gas exploration in Australia, Egypt, Yemen and Indonesia.
If foreign fields were dropped a couple of years ago because they were causing a huge drain on the state coffers, Gujarat government decided to “systematically withdraw” from the KG Basin, which cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 13,000 crore, in April this year.
Meanwhile, Gujarat officials said, Aloria left “no stone unturned in pleasing the powers that be”, including Modi, when he was chief minister till May 2014, and later his successor Anandiben Patel. While he was already heading urban development, he was simultaneously made in charge of the crucial home department in November 2014. Both urban development and home are directly handled by the Gujarat chief minister.
Aloria, it is said, was one of the most active backstage organizers of the two high-profile events which took place in Gandhinagar with the direct participation of Modi – the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, on January 7, followed by the Vibrant Gujarat business meet of January 11.
Unlike many other colleagues, Aloria meticulously kept his political bosses informed about every detail what all was happening in the babudom, and which babu thinks what. “He did this under Modi and continued it later. In doing so, he was performing his normal duty”, a senior official, who is known to be close to Aloria, said.

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